Burn After Reading
February 27, 2015 6:42 PM   Subscribe

 
Burn comment after reading.
posted by thebestusernameever at 7:01 PM on February 27, 2015


(Hides copy under Esquire)
posted by clavdivs at 7:09 PM on February 27, 2015


(Hides copy under Playboy)
(Hides Playboy under Esquire)
posted by eriko at 7:31 PM on February 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


Oooh. I had a copy of this and Jolly Roger's Cookbook in high school that i found on a BBS. I only tried a few of the recipes, and luckily never did any serious damage to myself or anybody else.
posted by KGMoney at 7:38 PM on February 27, 2015


I prefer the less popular but much better organized and researched statist cookbook.
posted by humanfont at 7:47 PM on February 27, 2015 [34 favorites]


I prefer the less popular but much better organized and researched statist cookbook.
Less popular? Yes, not the best seller Anarchist was, but countless copies were printed and distributed (much like the Gideons Bible and Mao's Little Red Book). My copy is under the short leg of my dining table.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:54 PM on February 27, 2015


'Engels' guide to boiling'
posted by clavdivs at 7:54 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


i had a copy downloaded from a bbs as well. this might be a mark of a kind of nascent politics--one of the interesting things about it, was how it worked as a bridge b/w the sazmidat work of the radical left in the 70s and the early internet work, the other thing i find interesting, like most folk texts--that though it has a singular author--it is mostly an anthology, and as a folk anthology never really has an author--though there is a singular name here, how it began as an evasion of authorship, and how it ended as an evasion of authorship interests me
posted by PinkMoose at 8:24 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know it sounds silly, because in retrospect, many of the suggestions offered in the AC were just really bad ideas. But I have to admit, in my misspent youth, I poured over the pages, trying to deduce practical facts from sometimes sketchy suggestions.

And I have to thank it for that; First off, it made me much less credulous; just because something was written in a book didn't mean it was really something that an average 17 year old would be able to cook up. And more importantly, it started me on a lifelong journey of breaking and fixing things.

It wasn't alone in this feat, I read a lot of old manuals, zines, DIY suggestions from BBSs, and what these all gave me was the ability to troubleshoot way, waaay outside the box problems.

I realize that it is wildly counterintuitive, but books like the Anarchist's Cookbook actually made me better at fixing problems, and that was a skill I was able to translate into a lifelong (so far) series of careers.

So I'm grateful for it, while at the same time having done my best to minimize my knowledge of it when I was young and still getting in trouble with the law.

I think books like this need to exist, because they are subversive and therefore will be read, and that kind of knowledge can be put to surprisingly good use once the reader realizes that blowing stuff up is fun, but knowing how to and not blowing stuff up is a step forward into adulthood.
posted by quin at 8:38 PM on February 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


How to Lose Fingers and End Up on A Psych Hold Behind a Bad Nutmeg Trip.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:14 PM on February 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


There was a zeal to finding this book and looking through the supposed DIY arcane knowledge within; the same as discovering all the instructions on how to build red boxes, blue boxes, and tron boxes on BBSs.

But really, if you built anything from this book, most likely you would be rendered dead or incapacitated. The instructions were sloppy and I'm pretty sure were designed to immolate anybody who tried them. If memory serves me right, there's also a recipe in there for the infamous smoked banana peels that starts with "get 20 pounds of bananas." Banana peels don't actually get anybody high and if anybody tried this recipe they would exhaust themselves spending hours scraping banana peels in a fit of sobriety.
posted by destro at 9:16 PM on February 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


also this is a very interesting article.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:25 PM on February 27, 2015


I learned more from Abbie Hoffman's "Steal This Book", which I stole from Changing Hands on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona in 1990.
posted by padraigin at 9:29 PM on February 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I have a vague memory of finding this on a BBS and printing out a copy, and sharing it with friends in.. 7th grade maybe? (so this was 16-17 years ago) Gave a copy to someone, and then at some point had to have a Talk with School Authority Figures. I can't remember if one of the kids used it, or if their parents just found it and I got ratted out. Don't remember any sort of punishment around it, though.
posted by curious nu at 9:43 PM on February 27, 2015


William Powell was my principal in high school. It always seemed strange to me that the author of the AC went on to being a school principal.
posted by dazed_one at 9:54 PM on February 27, 2015 [33 favorites]


I'm grateful to my older sister for cautioning me not to actually try any of the recipes or projects back when I was an eager teenager. And I... followed? her advice? Well, it all turned out fine in the end.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:16 PM on February 27, 2015


O' ye old phrack files, the staples rusted, pages yellowed, memories hazed.
posted by clavdivs at 10:52 PM on February 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I was always under the impression that the Anarchist's Cookbook wasn't a single book, but several different loose, folkloric agglomerations of various people's homemade bomb recipes that had been built up in the popular imagination as a single, authoritative tome on How To Do Very Bad Things. When I worked at a big bookstore, in a given year we'd have at least five or six skeevy-looking teens (usually with the vague, indefinable whiff of pyromania, animal torture, or seething racism about their person) who'd try to get us to order the Anarchist's Cookbook for them. It never popped up with our suppliers, so I always assumed that the book itself was half-urban legend, half-underground samizdat publication, and was happy enough to turn those kinds of creeps away that I never gave it a second thought. But now that I know that it's a real thing, it actually disturbs me a bit.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:11 PM on February 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm another that got this off a BBS in the early 80's, as a young adolescent. I don't think I ever actually read through it -- I just downloaded it because it felt good to tell friends that I had a copy.
posted by not_on_display at 11:46 PM on February 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yep, downloaded this off a BBS--The Flaming Ovary, if memory serves--circa 1993. Quickly realized that the teenage pyromaniac recipes handed down through lighting crew at school were a) more splodey, b) less amputationey.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:58 PM on February 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also got it off a BBS, although my authority figures just smiled indulgently and rolled their eyes, because I was the sort of teenaged rebel who stuck it to the man by never missing curfew and writing well-argued letter to the local newspaper and complaining to the local library board about deficits in the collection.

But just having it (from a BBS) was an important statement of identity, even though I resisted authority in more traditional ways.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:42 AM on February 28, 2015 [22 favorites]


I also had .txt files of the Jolly Roger's and Steal This Book. Never did anything, still keep my 10 fingers.
posted by sukeban at 12:58 AM on February 28, 2015


The Anarchist Cookbook was actually a clever troll to get real chemists to write useful guides to inorganic chem and home lab safety.
posted by ryanrs at 12:58 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I somehow was handed several photocopied pages in junior high school. To this day the stench of burnt spanish peanut skins permeates my soul.
posted by univac at 1:01 AM on February 28, 2015


The large, rich Boomer generation, poisoned by lead. We will not see their like again, for good or ill.
posted by alasdair at 1:02 AM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


I prefer the less popular but much better organized and researched statist cookbook.

Oh, you mean Department of the Army Technical Manual TM 31-210, the Improvised Munitions Handbook.
posted by Zed at 1:02 AM on February 28, 2015 [31 favorites]


Most people here didn't get it off their local BBS as the actual book differs from the textfile collection despite having the same name.
posted by I-baLL at 1:04 AM on February 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


The article was really interesting, thanks. Had no idea it was so old, nor that it was an actual book. Mine and all '80s era copies I ever saw were the dot matrix printouts of BBS downloads. What a totem it seemed back then.
posted by riverlife at 1:11 AM on February 28, 2015


I was loaned this book by my father, who worked for a government defence department. He borrowed it from the library at work; he thought I might be amused by it.
posted by Wolof at 1:11 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


feckless fecal fear mongering: "The Flaming Ovary"

One of the lesser known side effects of using the book's recipes.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:21 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the circumstances leading to its not being pulled out of circulation are terrible. But yeah, it wouldn't change the availability via internet.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:22 AM on February 28, 2015


Also, Powell was young and dumb enough not to fully understand the shitstorm that would follow and the impact on his own career, but he did want to publish it under pseudonym. But his asshole publisher argued him out of it.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:24 AM on February 28, 2015


. Had no idea it was so old, nor that it was an actual book

It was a "Head Shop Literary Staple", right next to Jack Herer and the classic acrylic US Bongs.

Or so I've heard...
posted by mikelieman at 2:07 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think I ever actually read through it -- I just downloaded it because it felt good to tell friends that I had a copy.

But just having it (from a BBS) was an important statement of identity,

I also had .txt files of the Jolly Roger's and Steal This Book. Never did anything,

What a totem it seemed back then.

Anarchy files. For collecting, not using. Knowledge, especially illicit knowledge, as an end unto itself. I think that's what the moral panic types never understood.
posted by Leon at 2:19 AM on February 28, 2015 [11 favorites]


It was a real, physical book, printed in the book factory I was working in at the time, and I handled thousands of copies of it. I have no idea whether the BBS version varied from the printed one.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:14 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the physical books that Kirth Gerson handled were among the several which wound up on a shelf in an 'alternative' bookshop in Leeds, England in 1974...
posted by Mister Bijou at 3:32 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have had a friend who got a visit from the RCMP after ordering a copy of this book. That alone would have made buying it worthwhile.
posted by srboisvert at 3:53 AM on February 28, 2015


I ordered a copy from Bookland in Brunswick, Maine c. 1990. Under my real name. This act will account for one of the hard slaps I will give my teen-aged self when I get a time machine.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:51 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Our local pyro back in school days considered The Poor Man's James Bond the most desirable of the various fabled grimoires.
posted by Wolfdog at 5:01 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


I checked out a copy from my college library in the early 1980s. Never did try any of the projects in it, although some were pretty intriguing. I kind of assumed Powell kept writing under the pseudonym George Hayduke, but perhaps not. I'm pretty sure material from Hayduke's books was combined with Anarchist's Cookbook excerpts in some of those early .txt files.
posted by TedW at 5:13 AM on February 28, 2015


Sounds like I should have been reading "Naked Came the Stranger" instead.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:23 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've always wondered whether having your name on a library record or shipping manifest for TAC was actually a point against your being a dangerous anarchist, in the eyes of the security apparatus. It wasn't really that useful, after all, and would likely serve to identify you as a dilettante who didn't even know enough to keep your name off any watchlists.
posted by Etrigan at 5:38 AM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, I had that "Army Technical Manual TM 31-210" link from cryptome still in the clipboard after having checked it out via a proxy so I wouldn't probably end up in some black site then accidentally pasted for one second into an unrelated facebook message. The preview was already loading before I could delete it. Nice knowing y'all.
posted by yoHighness at 5:59 AM on February 28, 2015


On reading Etrigan's comment above that gives me some hope.
posted by yoHighness at 6:00 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


The owner of the used bookstore where I work used to buy every copy of this book that came in the store just so he could stash them away in his attic. He's a classic 70s liberal, huge on civil rights and free speech issues, but this book just felt so stupid, so irresponsible, that he long ago decided he wouldn't sell it but would be happy to pay cash for any copy someone brought him.

The internet made the whole thing moot by the time I started working for him, but I got the story when I stumbled upon a large stack of Anarchist Cookbooks while sorting through the attic one day (some of George Hayduke's revenge manuals were mixed in, too, TedW).

I just forwarded him this article, Artw, thanks. He'll get a kick out of it.
posted by mediareport at 6:09 AM on February 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


. Had no idea it was so old, nor that it was an actual book

It was one of the top five most stolen books at the library I worked at. (The other four were all sex related.) Every time it was stolen we would just order a new copy, but it was never kept behind the desk or otherwise made harder to get, perhaps (in retrospect) as a political decision by the library director.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:14 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


...just so he could stash them away in his attic.

You cannot, of course, burn a book, no matter what.
posted by Segundus at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yeah, my first encounter was also with the print version. Never followed anything in the book, as a friend of mine who used to make his own improvised explosives called it "stupid and dangerous". And this was a guy who once sealed the wick hole in a pipe bomb by dripping wax on it from a lit candle, so I figured yeah... maybe not the soundest guidelines to be found in the AC.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:24 AM on February 28, 2015


It was (likely still is?) available from Loompanics. We carried it at the lefty counterculture book store I volunteered at as a teen. Is Loompanics still around?
posted by idiopath at 6:26 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]




Is Loompanics still around?

No, they folded a few years back. I remember Tower used to have a whole shelf of their stuff.
posted by thelonius at 7:05 AM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


Waterstone's (large UK chain bookshop) in Newcastle carried it in the early nineties. They allowed their stores a lot of autonomy back then. This one was stuffed with other arcana of the early Internet age, as summarised in Amok and Loompanics catalogues. That stuff fascinated me for a couple of years, but quickly came to seem a pretty conservative canon.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 7:23 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I bought a physical copy when I was in high school. There wasn't no stinkin internet in 1972, so we had to train carrier pigeons to retrieve the individual pages from the publisher in the correct order so we could assemble it in secret and stick it to the Man.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:29 AM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


In hindsight, the massive pigeon coop may have been a dead giveaway.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:31 AM on February 28, 2015 [4 favorites]


If I were a chef, I'd publish an actual cookbook called The Anarchist's Cookbook. I'm not sure what exactly would distinguish it from other cookbooks - an emphasis on locally-sourced organic vegetables? A section on dumpster-diving? - I just think it would be funny. Also, anarchists get a bad rap that really hasn't been warranted since the 1920s or so.
posted by Anyamatopoeia at 7:53 AM on February 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think someone in my high school had a copy of the original AC. My university library had a copy when I was there in the late 1970s, but it was in a reserved collection. You had to ask the librarian to retrieve it for you.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2015


I still have my copy around somewhere. I read it cover to cover, more than once. It is the companion to The Complete Idiots Guide to Keeping Your Volkswagen Alive. The angrier, hurtier, less balling companion.

Mine carries the Barricade Books imprimatur.
posted by notyou at 8:25 AM on February 28, 2015


I bought my copy of The Anarchist Cookbook at a Waldenbooks store in a mall in Sarasota, Florida. Which I'm pretty sure is missing the point about as badly as it can be missed.
posted by Naberius at 8:35 AM on February 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


I read a physical copy back in high school, maybe 1980-ish? Seemed to pair well with the Iranian hostage crisis and the rise of Reagan. Those were not fun times. It made the rounds at school, and one kid set his backyard on fire making the book's Napalm recipe.

AC was interesting for what it was, but I thought Hoffman's Steal This Book was more subversive.
posted by mosk at 9:23 AM on February 28, 2015


Man, this is a terrible article. It started to rub me the wrong way here:

Powell was an unlikely candidate to write a book espousing the virtues of violence.

....When he was a young teenager, his parents pulled him out of public school in White Plains after he and his friends stole a car and drove, for no particular reason, to North Carolina. He transferred to a boarding school in the Hudson Valley, where he was expelled for shoving a teacher’s parked car into a ravine..... Dropping out of school meant that Powell was eligible for Vietnam, and he met three times with the Draft Board’s psychiatrist. While he’d been granted extensions—he showed up drunk and on speed and mouthed off during interview ...after a long struggle, finally kicked his speed habit.


Not that I'm saying being drunk during an interview you were forced into for a hellish, dangerous position you don't want or having a problem with speed makes you likely to espouse violence. But that whole section paints a picture of a suburban, relatively well-off, white young man with poor impulse control, a drug problem, understandable issues with authority, and possibly some mental illness as well, facing the specter of being a grunt in Vietnam. Can't say I'd pick him as among my top ten Most Unlikely to Espouse Violence.

(Again, not saying he necessarily would advocate violence based on that profile either, just what was that topic sentence even about?)

But then, here's where it all really fell apart for me. What the heck is this?!*#:

It’s probably impossible to known with certainty where the truth lies....Among the collection are decades worth of book contracts and author agreements, but many of the papers relating to Powell and The Anarchist Cookbook are not included.2

2Columbia University was unable to say with certainty whether the papers were in its library.


Seriously, why should I believe a single thing written in the article after that. It's like the end of a TV add for pharmaceuticals where they go "May cause blindness, impotence, hallucinations and death. Call your doctor if your arms fall off".
posted by shiawase at 10:01 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm with shiawase. Something feels off about this whole adventure. I can't put my finger on it, but there's something left unsaid about this story.
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:15 AM on February 28, 2015


Back in the day, The Anarchist Cookbook and The Whole Earth Catalog made a nice box-set gift.
posted by JackFlash at 11:01 AM on February 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Did they ever find the FBI agent provocateur that was really responsible for the book? When my friends and I read it we quickly decided it was a trap.
posted by happyroach at 11:04 AM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


PinkMoose: "i had a copy downloaded from a bbs as well. this might be a mark of a kind of nascent politics--one of the interesting things about it, was how it worked as a bridge b/w the sazmidat work of the radical left in the 70s and the early internet work, the other thing i find interesting, like most folk texts--that though it has a singular author--it is mostly an anthology, and as a folk anthology never really has an author--though there is a singular name here, how it began as an evasion of authorship, and how it ended as an evasion of authorship interests me"

You know, I don't call you PnikMoose...

Just saying.

And back in the BBS days, I had ecopies of this and many other documents (I even got to be an authentic Phrack distribution site.) available for selected users, as well as an anarchist subboard.
posted by Samizdata at 12:25 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


In my bookselling days, we didn't carry it because it seemed irresponsible. But I remember a self-avowed anarchist making a big deal of ordering it, and, of course, never picking it up. Yeah, making extra work for independent booksellers, that's sticking it to the man.
posted by theora55 at 1:18 PM on February 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Naberius: "I bought my copy of The Anarchist Cookbook at a Waldenbooks store in a mall"

Same as me. Used my real name when I asked them to order a copy, and I think I even paid by using a credit card. When I saw how disappointing it was for me, I attempted to return it for a refund. Waldenbooks actually gave me my money back. I was so happy!

Sucks that I'm on a list somewhere, though.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 7:58 PM on February 28, 2015


Ca'mon folks, put um all in this pillow case, et, that purple Xerox one also.
posted by clavdivs at 9:09 PM on February 28, 2015


You cannot, of course, burn a book, no matter what.

It's nice to have someone here on metafilter that is unfamiliar with Dan Brown.

I envy you.
posted by el io at 10:44 PM on February 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I bought my copy of The Anarchist Cookbook at a Waldenbooks store in a mall"

That reminds me of the time my sister bought a copy of The Satanic Bible at Safeway.
posted by cropshy at 6:21 AM on March 1, 2015


Interesting article on the oft-confused BBS Anarchist Cookbook. So much of that out there then, so bogus. "Huh huh, go take your explosive and, like, blow up a stop sign." I was dissapponted Vice seemed to have such an earnest good time save for the lame tennis ball: I was convinced those were all crap.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:51 PM on March 2, 2015


It's been years since people have called or written me to take down the files in textfiles.com.

Guess we "won".

(In 2002, someone called me to demand they all be taken down. When I said that wasn't happening, he said, "you... you are a very bad man.")
posted by jscott at 11:09 PM on March 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


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